India’s first certified Tea sommelier
Amit’s uncle instigated him to start his journey into the specialty tea industry, but before entering to this huge market Amit decided to pursue a Tea sommelier course. He is the first certified tea sommelier
Amit’s uncle instigated him to start his journey into the specialty tea industry, but before entering to this huge market Amit decided to pursue a Tea sommelier course. He is the first certified tea sommelier of the nation. In the conversation with the Hospitality Lexis, he decoded various facts about the industry and his luxurious tea brand Chado tea.
HospiBuz:- Mr. Mehta, we congratulate you on being India’s first Tea Sommelier. Please tell us what attracted you towards tea and tell us about your journey of becoming a Tea Sommelier?
Amit Mehta:- In spite of India being one of the largest teas producing nations, and producer of one of the best teas such as the First Flush & Second Flush Darjeeling’s, the amazingly strong Assam and the fragrant Nilgiris amongst others, when I started my journey into Specialty Tea Industry, most people dint know anything beyond the chai.
My own personal tea drinking habit was also limited to Chai. My uncle in the US instigated me to start my journey in to the specialty tea industry. I decided to deep dive in to seeking knowledge before I can convince others to buy tea. With limited knowledge available on specialty tea in India. That is when I decided to get a Tea Sommelier course done and was christened as a sommelier by my tea guru and mentor James Norwood Pratt.
HospiBuz:- What type of demand do you see from hotels and restaurants coming in and how does Chado Tea complete their specific requirement?
Amit Mehta:- As consumers are getting more aware and demand better teas, Hotels and restaurants are now more aware of different kinds & ways of teas.
They now know the difference between Specialty Teas and Regular teas. Chado with its exhaustive varieties all different not only by flavor but also by Origin (countries), Type (green, black, oolong, white, herbal & fruit tisanes) and flushes – caters to their demands with ease. Chado also assists restaurants in selecting teas suiting their cosinescuisines . Also, making it a high revenue source item. Chado has successfully assisted restaurants in making tea a high source of revenue from as low as 4 % to as high as 30 % of their revenues. Thereby making restaurants serious about tea. Also, various teas are being used as Ingredients in Foods and Cocktails as well. We see a large demand of tea not only as the economy grows but also as the palate of the average consumer getting more refined.
HospiBuz:- Chado Tea offers over 300 100 varieties of tea. Tell us about some most frequent bought flavors from your customers and which one is your personal favorite?
Amit Mehta:- Chado tea offers various teas – Popular ones being our Chinese and Taiwanes Oolongs, flavored Green tea, Exclusive to us Darjeeling DJ1s (First Flushes) and also some fancy chai blends. For me choosing a favorite is like choosing between your kids. However, I like my Darjeeling First Flushes, The Reena’s Rose Oolong and Energitea.
HospiBuz:- As we all know you started Chado Tea in India. Why did you choose India over any other country?
Amit Mehta:- First and foremost, I was and am based out of India. India has a large market gap the Indian market for Specialty Tea has a lot of space to grow. Also, Indians and India given choice and education are a naturally tea drinking society. We seldom notice when we go to a coffee outlet the Iced Coffee menu is several pages and Hot Coffee pages are very few. Indians like coffee as a Cold Drink more. Given choice of variety and made aware an average Indian would choose Tea over Coffee.
HospiBuz:- Chado Tea has been running in India for more than 10 years. Please tell us about its impact on its consumers?
Amit Mehta:- Chado Tea has been in India since the time people did not even know about green tea forget oolong, white or herbals.
Chado consistently since the past 10 years has been not only educating end consumers about teas but also various Tea brands, that you see mushrooming throughout the country today. Seldom would you find a specialty tea brand which hasn’t had a conversation or hasn’t been associated with Chado tea directly or indirectly. Chado has ensured education first & sale later. Today our Tea list which is like a mini tea encyclopedia is being used happily by various tea brands accorss the country as a training manual. The result of which is what we see today is a Specialty tea revolution taking place in India. The general awareness for various kinds of teas from world over has gone up by several folds. Consumers are no longer drinking tea for health but because they like the various flavors and tasting notes each tea brings with itself. The shift from Tea being a fancy, wannbe, health fad to a serious drink like for itslef is now completing its cycle because of this underlying consistent education.
Initially, you were a one-man army behind the success of Chado Tea, you handled everything from importing to quality and even marketing
HospiBuz:- Please tell us how difficult it was for you to manage so many tasks? How it helps you to delegate the work now?
Amit Mehta:- Being in the Specialty tea business is very different from being in a normal food product business. Initially since the market was new and there were no other players it was not only too much manage a large array of tasks but also difficult in terms of regulation, making bureaucracy understand that the product being imported or being sold is tea was very difficult since no one had seen such teas. Having been my first time into the business also was difficulty. Initially I used to micromanage a lot. A lot of work is now being delegated to the team with internal SOPs in place. However, as mentioned earlier the specialty tea business is very different the sourcing and tasting that I cannot delegate 100 % till date inspite of having a capable tea tasting team.
HospiBuz:- India as you very well know is fond of tea however there are very few Tea Sommeliers in India and very few people pursue it as a career. Please tell us something about the Tea Sommelier courses. How difficult and interesting they were for you?
Amit Mehta:- Indians are fond of Chai as of now hence you have several tea tasters and they are doing well in their career. Being a Tea Sommelier is not easy, having to maintain your tongue, stomach and taste buds well to understand the nuances in tasting notes. With the Specialty Tea Market Growing Tea Sommeliers and Experts are being required not only by Tea Companies but also Hotel and other establishments. For me having drunk Chai for 23 years before I tasted Green Tea it was very difficult to understand and take notice of nuances. However constant tasting and with the right guidance and James Norwood Pratt and Devan Shah what seemed like a huge task is now much easier. Tea is an industry where the more you learn the lesser you know and the humbler you become. Having to taste tea from every part of the world has been very interesting. It changes the way you look at the world. Having 50 cups a day tea tasting regime is not easy on the palette. Also, there have been instances where I have tasted certain teas about 30 – 50 times before I could understand it.
HospiBuz:- Earlier India had its one common tea but soon after the effects of western culture, other varieties entered into the trend. Please tell us something about the White Tea or Baicha?
Amit Mehta:- India has had tea for ages. We Indians need to learn to value our teas. Our Darjeelings & Tippy Assams are being sought after throughout the world and by the royals of UK & Japan however we have mis treated our own teas and not taken them seriously. We Indians need a reality check, Yog goes to America and becomes Yoga before we started practicing it. Same goes with tea, most Specialty Tea companies from the west are coming and educating us on tea.
Baicha or White tea is one of the original six tea categories or types – like Lucha (green tea), Hongcha (red / black tea), Heicha (Pu-Erh). White tea is most minimally processed just in two steps Withering & Drying. Although Bai Cha has a long history its commercial production just started 200 years ago. White tea is considered one of the healthiest teas. It also has the most subtle and complex flavors and takes a lot to understand an appreciate. To most first time chai drinkers it might come across as just hot water. It would require several cups and tasting before one can start appreciating a White tea.
HospiBuz:- Chado sells accessories along with different varieties of tea. Please tell about your accessories whose designs are inspired by different countries?
Amit Mehta:- Chado understands one needs a perfect tea accessory to make the right cup. Also, tea accessories make preparing loose leaf tea easier. We have various teapots, brewing baskets, Argentinian Mate Gourds, tasting cups, Japanese chawan and tea whisk and the Chinese Gaiwans which act as a Serving as well as Drinking cup. All encompass different ways teas are being drunk in ways around the world.
Chado offers some gift boxes which have different samples of tea. One of them has 20 varieties of tea. Please tell us how do you market Chado Tea and how does different ideas of marketing help in the growth of the company?
Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!